Olympic athletes 'told to sign away rights'

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The Independent Online
Competitors at this summer's Atlanta Olympics are being asked to sign away their legal rights in any disputes, including those involving drugs.

If they do not agree to abide by the decision of an ad hoc sporting commission at the Games, the International Olympic Committee will not allow them to take part.

Vicente Modahl, whose wife, Diane Modahl, won a long battle against doping allegations last month after being sent home from the 1994 Commonwealth Games, described the IOC proposal as a "gross violation of human rights". He and other agents are calling for the plan to be abandoned.

The news that British competitors will be required, for the first time, to sign such an entry form for the Olympics came as a surprise to the British Athletic Federation yesterday. Its spokesman, Tony Ward, said: "Our position is that people should always have legal redress in such cases if they find they have been hard done by. It is a basic human right."

British competitors already sign an agreement with the British Olympic Association when they come to pick up their uniforms. The contract obliges them to accept IOC jurisdiction, but does not preclude going to law to challenge any ruling.

The Olympic entry form includes the following clause: "I agree that the decisions of the Court of Arbitration for Sport shall be final, non-appealable and enforceable. I shall not institute any claim, arbitration, or litigation or seek any form of relief in any other court or tribunal."

Bob Brennan, press chief for the Atlanta games organising committee, confirmed last night that the entry forms did contain such a clause.

Brennan said that the Court of Arbitration for Sport had been set up since the last Olympics to speed the appeal process for competitors at the Games. "There has been a lengthy debate on the subject within the IOC and we have been assured that the proposal is supportable. I think when competitors fully understand the idea they will support it."

That looks debatable. The IOC initiative is clearly an attempt to avoid becoming embroiled in costly legal actions with athletes similar to those involving Butch Reynolds and Katrin Krabbe in their disputes with the International Amateur Athletic Federation. The IOC's motive is understandable but the price they are asking may well prove to be too high.

Vicente Modahl is among those calling for the document to be reconsidered. "If Diane had signed a document like this before the Commonwealth Games of 1994 she would have been found guilty within the premises of the Commonwealth Games and she would have had no chance of challenging the verdict later."

Michael Beloff QC, the UK representative on the Atlanta tribunal, defended the IOC position. "There is no reason at all why a panel of this kind shouldn't be able to adjudicate on a drugs-related dispute very promptly and very fairly."